“Verda, don’t never get old or useless like me,” grandma said to me one day as I threaded her needle and found the color of rag strip she wanted to add to the rug she was sewing. Old she may be, I thought, but certainly not useless.
In the summer she made batches of soap for her children and their families. I admired her quiet patience and expertise. She also cared for a few rows of flowers, and her strong arms and hands carded billowy piles of fluffy wool batts, wide for quilts, narrow for yarn to be knitted into mittens and socks against the winter’s harshness. She borrowed an heirloom spinning wheel and spun the yarn.
Grandma sometimes told us stories of her early life. At the tender age of six she followed a handcart across the plains to help colonize Dixie. With no doctor nearer than forty miles as she grew up and raised her family, she did the best she could with what she had. Once when the pain from a deep infection became unbearable, she put her thumb on the chopping block, covered her face with her apron as grandpa’s razor-sharp axe bit lightly into the bone, and found blessed relief.
She fasted and prayed with an adopted Lamanite son that the way might be found that he and his family could go to the St. George Temple and be sealed. A day or two before the time set for them to leave, a team of horses belonging to her son-in-law, who lived many miles over the mountains, was standing at her corral gate.
Her life was filled with service to friends and neighbors, including constant loving care of her elderly mother and mother-in-law. Death took four of her young children and her husband, leaving her with a young family to rear alone. Yet I can’t remember ever hearing from her one word of bitterness.
As a child I had sympathy, even pity, for her lack of education and hard life. In mellowed maturity I have known empathy and admiration for her accomplishments and character. If I ever reach the advanced age that grandma did, I hope I will be “useless” in the same wonderful way, and with the same grace and dignity she always bore. , Corinne, Utah